The Canadian Forces Snowbirds’ are returning to the skies over White Rock next week – though on a different date than first announced – but officials say due to continued pandemic-related limits on gatherings, the visit will be simply a flyover, and they’re discouraging residents and visitors alike from rushing to the waterfront to witness it.
“It’s not an event like an airshow and we don’t want to portray it as anything more than it actually is,” Mayor Darryl Walker said Friday (July 9).
“We’re hoping that local residents have an opportunity to enjoy it… (but) we have to continue to respect the public health orders – that’s really the message that we want to deliver.”
Snowbirds public affairs officer Capt. Gabriel Ferris said Friday that the ‘birds are planning to buzz by between 3 and 4 p.m. on Friday, July 16 – two days ahead of the July 18 date that was announced in December. The details, he noted, “are not set in stone yet and could still change depending on operations.”
In past years, the Snowbirds’ visits to White Rock have drawn tens of thousands of people to gather along the city’s waterfront and hillsides to take in the aerobatic show. It is part of a cross-country tour and raises money for the CH.I.L.D. Foundation, which funds research for children suffering from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and liver disorders.
Usually, it’s “a great show that is 30 to 45 minutes long – they’re not going to do that,” CH.I.L.D. CEO and president Mary McCarthy Parsons said Wednesday (July 7).
“The White Rock one is going to be flying by, dipping their wings and saying, ‘See you in 2022.’”
The visit was announced by the Snowbirds in a Dec. 8 tweet of their 2021 schedule, which is continuing to honour the legacy of Capt. Jennifer Casey, the Royal Canadian Air Force public affairs officer who died in May 2020 when the jet she was a passenger in crashed shortly after takeoff. The tragedy also injured pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall.
McCarthy Parsons said the Snowbirds have been ambassadors for the CH.I.L.D Foundation for “many, many years,” and that the ‘Fly for CH.I.L.D’ events are typically a significant source of funds for the non-profit, which gives $1 million annually in research funding.
The last time the squadron was here, in 2017, around $50,000 was raised for the cause.
But with B.C.’s Restart plan limiting outdoor gatherings to 5,000 people until at least Sept. 7, McCarthy Parsons said she doesn’t see how they’ll get anywhere close to that amount in White Rock this year. A chunk of funds is typically generated during the show, through the sale of merchandise and on-site collection of donations.
In an effort to fill some of that gap, pamphlets explaining the cause and how to donate are being delivered to targeted homes in White Rock, but “the whole of White Rock isn’t going to be covered,” she said.
While loyal donors have helped the organization keep its head above water during the pandemic, “we miss these fundraising events,” she said.
Walker said the limited appearance is just par for the course this year.
“This has been one of those years,” he said. “Two years ago, it was all kinds of events all summer… White Rock was vibrant, it was buzzing.
“That’s not this year, and we understand that. We don’t like it, but we accept it. Next year, we hope to start up again – Tour de White Rock, Sea Festival, all the concerts and so on – but not this year.”
If the Snowbirds are able to schedule a full show over White Rock in 2022, “we will make an event,” Walker added, noting planning is already underway to create a permanent tribute to the Snowbirds at the pier; a storyboard “that portrays the importance of the Snowbirds to the country and to the culture of the country.”
“That in and of itself should be an event, and should be something that’s done with a representative of the Snowbirds.”
They’d also like to do something to recognize Casey, he said.
McCarthy Parsons said while the show can’t go on this year, donations to the CH.I.L.D. Foundation continue to be greatly appreciated. They may be made online at www.child.ca/donate/
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